4 Top Tips From a Leading Creative Director on How to Maximize Your Photo Shoot

4 Top Tips From a Leading Creative Director on How to Maximize Your Photo Shoot

Photo shoots can be a huge commitment for brands – in terms of both time and money. And usually the imagery captured on the shoot is going to be used in multiple ways for many months: enticing on social channels, grabbing attention in lookbooks and ultimately selling on PDPs.

A beautiful bouquet of urbanstems flowers sits on a table while a mother and child play nearby
Urbanstems seamlessly integrates its product into a beautiful family moment
So how can brands get the most out of their photo shoots?

Well, spend a day on-set with a top art director, and you’ll always walk away with new tricks!

We’re delighted to present the highlights from the latest installment in our CREATIVE + COMMERCE CONNECTIONS conversation series where we chat with industry experts about the changing role of photography, creative and content in today’s ecommerce-driven retail landscape. During this chat we caught up with long-time friend of The Line Studios, Anne von Hemert, Creative Director of Briogeo. 

Central to our conversation was how brands can improve the efficiency and efficacy of their photoshoots. 

Having worked with some of the top names in the business – from Simon Doonan at Barney’s NY to Moda Operandi, Bloomingdales and Tiffany – Anne is uniquely qualified to provide insights and perspectives that will help brands really make the most of their shoots. 

While we highly recommend watching the whole conversation with Anne, we’ve gathered up our four favorite takeaways from our chat:

1. First things first: Do your Expectations match your Budget?

Anne showed us an amazing Venn Diagram, which we’ve recreated here of Cheap, Fast and Good — as an art director, your job is to explain why you can deliver the intersection of two on a regular basis, but not all three. 

Anne suggests asking what is the priority. “Does it need to be good? Does it need to be fast? Does it need to be cheap? Because achieving all three is really, really hard.” Not that you can’t get lucky and have a time that makes it all happen, but you can’t plan it. 

She suggests that “more often than not, you do get what you pay for”, so prioritizing should take precedence: budget, efficiency or quality.  “For me, it’s budget, it’s expectation on shotlist, it’s turnaround time, it’s retouching. All of those parameters we really need [to make an assessment].” 

Venn Diagram outlining the challenges with making a project Cheap, Fast and Good.
E-Commerce Photography can be Cheap, Fast and Good: Brands can have 2, but very rarely all 3. Which is the priority?
2. Art Directors increase efficiency on-set, so don’t hesitate to bring one onboard

Often brands who don’t have in-house creatives ask if they need an art director on set. And why.

The number one reason according to von Hemert is “efficiency. They’re not there to tell you what to do necessarily. If you have a vision, if you know what you want, it’s still beneficial to have an art director there to know when to push the team and when not to push the team.” 

And for those that don’t know what they want, the art director can help guide the shoot with moodboards, including competitive analyses. And if for no other reason, “eventually someone needs to make the call on-set.” While clients might not enjoy playing the role of “bad cop” on-set, the art director is the one to say the shoot is running over budget or time and ultimately make the call on what happens next.  

In our opinion, the ROI of an art director makes them worth every penny! 

A page from an Art Directors moodboard for an on-location lifestyle shoot
A snippet from an Art Directors moodboard from an on-location lifestyle shoot for Urbanstems
3. Do your prep work for a smoother production

Planning ahead makes a big difference: it allows you to strategize your approach to the whole day on-set. And that starts with the all-important creative brief, which connects each team to the central concept and execution plan. 

Von Hemert explains, “In a brief, you can never over-prepare. The more prep, the more information, the better. And then leave it in your creative team’s hands for the next step.” 

Make sure the hair and makeup team are not only clear on direction, but also on the models themselves. As von Hemert points out, not every stylist is equipped to work with every hair texture, or has the budget given to them for hair extensions if needed. 

Knowing exactly how the light will hit for each shot during the day makes all the difference in putting together both an efficient shot list and a realistic schedule. “The big unlock with lifestyle and shooting outside was doing your own lighting reports. So you structure your day around where light is hitting the nicest. Maximizing the efficiency of your day is really important.” If you can’t shoot with direct overhead light from 12 PM – 2 PM, you can make sure the schedule takes that into consideration and uses the time wisely. 

The same goes for an extra style-out day in advance of the shoot. Von Hemert points to the wasted time on set putting looks together versus being able to do it in advance. In turn, this allows brands to maximize all available shooting time on-set. She acknowledges the extra cost but says that at the end of the day, it saves money by giving you more of the shoot day to actually crank out content. 

“I think if the goal is efficiency and quality, you do not want to waste time on styling on set, which happens all the time.”

A shot-list schedule outlining the who, what, where and when for an efficient ecommerce shoot
A well-planned, thoroughly detailed shot-list translates to a much more efficient shoot
4. Don’t underestimate what your ecommerce imagery can do

Ecommerce imagery has become a lynchpin for brands – being used everywhere from website homepages, to PDPs, to emails, to ads, to organic social media (read how M.M. LaFleur has maxed out their ecomm imagery to great success). And a successful shoot takes that shift into consideration. Von Hemert explains that a few years ago the attitude was that “e-comm is really straightforward and utilitarian. I feel like now it’s evolved.” 

If a brand has limited funds, investing in their ecommerce imagery is ultimately the right move — if the place where the consumer is making the final purchasing decision doesn’t highlight the product well, there’s little chance of conversion. 

But von Hemert sees an opportunity for what she deems “micro-interactions,” which are all the touchpoints where a consumer interacts with your content from video to gifs to imagery. “It’s where the magic happens. That’s my preference, put the time and the effort into your ecomm and make it interesting.”

In short, investing in the success of your ecommerce photography means that you’ll maximize your content opportunities from onsite to social to advertising. And that investment requires careful pre-production and planning, including understanding how and when to allocate budget. 

Screenshot from the urbanstems homepage showcasing multiple different types of product imagery.
An art director can help brands get the most of their shoots for a variety of image types

Have topics you want to hear about? Share your ideas for our next CREATIVE + COMMERCE CONNECTIONS conversations with us at info@thelinestudios.nyc.

Watch the full conversation here.

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